Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family?  Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center, will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.

“The truth shall set you free.” (John 8: 32) Jesus said these words, making a special note that the truth involved holding to his teachings.

In addition to the importance of living by the truth of the Gospel, we are much better off emotionally and relationally if we facing the truth. If we cling to a false reality we’ll be in serious trouble.

Scott Peck, in his book The Road Less Traveled, said we must be dedicated to the truth if we are going to solve life’s problems. “The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world.”

In spite of its universal endorsement, we are surrounded by truth-twisters. What do I mean by truth twisting? Truth twisting is the fine art of putting a spin on things so you come out looking like the hero. Instead of fully acknowledging wrongdoing, truth twisters rationalize, justify, make excuses and generally wiggle their way out of taking full responsibility for their behavior.

Of all the relational problems that come into my consulting room, 99% deal with some form of truth twisting. Subsequently, healing always involves facing truths we’d rather not face, acknowledging problems we’d rather not see, accepting responsibility we’d rather not accept.

Consider this recent email.

Dear Dr. David. I am nearly at my wit’s end. I’ve only been married for six months and already I feel like I’m going crazy. I have to say that I saw some of the warning signs while I was dating my husband. He tends to think his way is the right way. He is intolerant of others and has a temper problem. He puts me down when he thinks something I said was stupid. He is intolerant of me and others.

My husband can also be very loving, and I’m not sure what to do about this problem. Of course I’ve already approached him with his tendency to put me down, and he denies having any problems. Anytime I point out his wrong, he makes excuses. He never, and I mean never, apologizes. It’s always someone else’s fault. His ego is so huge, I’m wondering if I’ve made a big mistake. Do these kinds of people ever change? What can I do to help him change? 

This woman is struggling with a truth twister. I talk about this issue in depth in my book, Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life. Truth twisters make us feel crazy because we’re always wondering if the problem lies with them or us.

You can see in this woman’s note that her husband doesn’t want to face the truth of his actions. This is called denial, and denial can be a major hurdle for someone who is defensive and doesn’t see their part in the problem.

Generally speaking, someone with a serious character problem doesn’t take responsibility for their action, and in its most severe form, runs afoul of the law because of their disregard for others’ feelings. Regardless, truth twisters create chaos in relationship.

Let’s consider some practical tools for dealing with truth twisters.

First, acknowledge the severity of the situation. In other words, you must face the truth of your situation. Facing the truth of the severity of the problem is your beginning point for change. Step back, reflect, pray and use wisdom in deciding the severity of the situation. This is your starting point.

Second, refuse to get caught in a power struggle in trying to force to tell the truth.  You’ll usually only feel crazier after a tussle with a truth twister. Don’t try to pin them down, because they’ll wiggle out. Don’t corner them, because they’ll come out swinging.

Third, do hold your truth twister accountable. Make clear statements about the truth of the situation, what you see, think and want. Be firm with him, indicating that you’re not going to argue, nor will you simply let him slide out of taking responsibility.

You might make the following statements:

  • "I hear your excuse but don’t accept it. I don’t want to listen to any more. Let me know when you’re ready to be completely honest with me.”
  • "Please don’t continue explaining your actions to me. What I need to hear is that you’re sorry and that it won’t happen again.”
  • “I’m unhappy that you’re late again. I want you to keep your agreement to be home every night for dinner.”
  • “I’m angry that you didn’t tell me the complete truth about the situation. I expect you to tell me the complete truth from now on.”

Fourth, be prepared for resistance. No one wants to be held accountable. Most want wiggle room; we seek opportunities to twist the truth so we don’t have to feel guilt over our actions.

Fifth, be consistent and don’t expect overnight changes. It is critical that you hold your husband accountable, again and again. Over time you will determine if he is capable of character change. It is important that you not enable irresponsible, truth twisting behavior.

Furthermore, help your husband make these difficult changes. Encourage him to attend church with you, praying for a change of his heart. God is the ultimate source of true character change.

Finally, understand that some people choose not to change. While I’d love to tell you everything is going to be fine, some people simply are too defensive, have too prideful, and feel too little conviction to change. In that event, you may need to turn up the heat, being ready to set firmer boundaries and take more decisive action. It may take firmer consequences for him to decide that he cannot continue to twist the truth, and must begin taking responsibility for his actions.

Please share your thoughts about this woman’s situation. Have you been in similar circumstances? What counsel would you give her? Are you struggling with marriage problems in your relationship? Please feel free to contact me for advice on Marriage Intensives or consultations on what may be needed to make significant progress in your marriage. Please share your concerns with me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website, www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com.

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recovery Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and When Pleasing Others is Hurting You. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities. You can also find Dr. Hawkins on Facebook and Twitter.